Qwest: Enterprise and Wholesale Drive the Business

Some will look at Qwest Communications International Inc. fourth quarter and full-year results and see trouble; others will see improvement. Irrespective of those judgments, it should be noted that for Qwest, business markets and wholesale are the majority of the business. 

Mass markets, which includes both consumer and small business revenue, represented about $1.4 billion worth of fourth-quarter revenue (and some portion of that is small business). 

Wholesale markets contributed $789 million. Business markets represented $1.1 billion.  In other words, Qwest one of these days relatively soon will be earning more money from wholesale and business customers than from consumers, as important as consumer markets may remain.  

Furthermore, revenue in business markets grew year over year, while mass market and wholesale revenue declined, with those declines attributable to voice services. 

In the fourth quarter of 2008, net income was $185 million, or 11 cents per diluted share, compared to $366 million, or 20 cents per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2007. Bad, eh?

Not if one considers the adjustments. The results include severance charges of $19 million, or one cent per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2008. More important, though, the earnings per share calculations reflect higher pretax income compared to the fourth quarter of 2007, offset by increased tax expense as the company recorded normal effective tax rates beginning in 2008. 

Income before income taxes in the fourth quarter increased 17 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2007.

Revenue in the quarter was $3.3 billion, a decline of three percent compared to $3.4 billion
in the fourth quarter of 2007 and a decline of two percent compared to the third quarter of
2008. 

Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter was $1.18 billion, a four percent increase compared to $1.14 billion in the year-ago period and a nine percent increase compared to $1.08 billion in the third quarter. Adjusted EBITDA margin was 35.6 percent compared to 33.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007 and 32.1 percent in the third quarter. 

For the full year, net income was $681 million, or 39 cents per diluted share, compared
to $2.9 billion, or $1.52 per diluted share, in 2007. Full-year results reflect the same normal effective tax rate dynamics as the fourth quarter. 

Earnings per share results include net special charges of three cents per diluted share in 2008 and 20 cents per diluted share in 2007. Income before income taxes was up 13 percent after adjusting for onetime
items.

Total revenue for the fourth quarter of $3.3 billion reflects an eight percent year-over-year growth in data, Internet and video revenues, which was offset by a decline of nine percent in voice revenue and a 33 percent decrease in wireless revenues.

As Qwest tells the story, income before income taxes increased 17 percent year over year while EBITDA increased four percent. Enterprise data and IP revenue was up nine percent year-over-year.

Data, Internet and video revenue now 25 percent of mass markets revenue, a key measure of how well Qwest is replacing declining landline voice revenues with new and alternative revenues. Qwest's consumer broadband subscriber base increased nine percent year over year. 

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